Water and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Impacts on Municipal Water Demand

Published: July 2020

Authors: Heather Cooley, Peter H. Gleick, Sonali Abraham, and Wenjia Cai

Pages: 10



The sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 has imposed massive health and economic burdens on communities around the world, and affected every sector of society, including the water sector. Unexpected events – from social disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic to more extreme droughts and floods due to climate change – highlight the need for water utilities to bolster their resilience so they can continue to provide critical water and wastewater services in a more variable and uncertain future.

This Issue Brief provides an early assessment of some of the critical impacts of the pandemic for municipal water demand, and includes recommendations to mitigate these effects. It finds that the pandemic has led to changes in water demand, with effects on utility expenditures and revenue, customer bills, building water quality, and operational conditions. Small water systems are especially vulnerable, as they have a smaller customer base to absorb any revenue losses and fewer operators.

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